Engineered nanomaterials hold significant promise in improving disease diagnosis, treatment specificity, maintaining the stability of delivered goods, and providing delivery effects. Among them, nanotechnology overcomes the limitations of traditional drug delivery through methods such as cell-specific targeting, transporting molecules to specific organelles, and intracellular transport. To promote the clinical translation of these promising nanotechnologies, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) launched the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2000 and proposed clear plans and grand challenges for the field. Nanoparticles (nNPs) account for a large part of this program. Nanoparticles can improve the stability and solubility of encapsulated cargo, facilitate transmembrane transport, and extend circulation time, thereby improving safety and effectiveness. For these reasons, research on nanoparticles has been widely used, yielding promising results in in vitro and small animal models. As nanoparticle-based delivery strategies can be applied in small molecule drugs, protein drugs, therapeutic virus particles, nucleic acids, and vaccines, it is particularly important to keep abreast of the progress of NPs. In addition, with the development of nanoparticle delivery technology, this system has gradually begun to be applied in the direction of cosmetics, health products, fluorescent dyes and Flavors and Fragrances.

Figure 1. Classification of most common nanoparticles (NP) and their cargo, delivery and patientresponse advantages and disadvantages.Figure 1. Classification of most common nanoparticles (NP) and their cargo, delivery and patientresponse advantages and disadvantages. (Verdini F, et al.; 2022)

Why Therapeutic Cargo Needs Nanoparticle Delivery

There are several reasons why nanoparticle delivery is required for therapeutic drugs or biomolecules, some of the key factors include:

Increased bioavailability: Nanoparticle delivery systems can increase the bioavailability of drugs or biomolecules in the body. Nanoparticles can bypass some clearance mechanisms in organisms and prolong their residence time in the circulatory system, thereby improving the therapeutic effect.

Improve solubility: Some therapeutic drugs or biomolecules have low water solubility due to their chemical properties, making it difficult to distribute evenly in the body. Nanoparticles can serve as carriers for drugs, improving their water solubility and helping to distribute them more evenly in the body.

Targeted delivery: Nanoparticles can achieve targeted delivery to specific cells or tissues through surface modification. Such a design can reduce adverse effects on normal cells and improve the accuracy of treatment.

Crossing biological barriers: There are many biological barriers in organisms, such as cell membranes and tissue layers, which may limit the entry of drugs or biomolecules. Nanoparticles can help overcome these barriers by changing their size, surface properties, etc., allowing for more efficient delivery.

Controlled release: Nanoparticles can be designed to have controlled release properties, allowing drugs or biomolecules to be released at a specific rate. This controlled release helps maintain therapeutic concentrations within the effective range and reduces side effects.

Improve stability: Some drugs or biomolecules may be affected by biodegradation in the body, causing them to lose activity. Nanoparticles can improve the stability of these molecules, allowing them to stay in the body longer.

Characteristics of Nanoparticle Delivery Cargos

Nanoparticle delivery systems provide an efficient means of transportation for different types of cargo, sharing some common characteristics. The following are the characteristics of different cargoes in nanoparticle delivery:

  • Small Molecule Drugs

Targeted delivery: Nanoparticles can achieve targeted delivery to specific cells or tissues, improving drug efficacy and reducing side effects.

Improved solubility: Nanoparticles can improve the water solubility of small molecule drugs, helping them to be distributed more evenly in the body.

  • Protein Drugs

Improved stability: Nanoparticles can protect protein drugs from being degraded in the body and improve their stability.

Controlled Release: Designed with controlled release properties to maintain protein concentration within the effective range and reduce rapid clearance.

Therapeutic virus particles:

Protective delivery: Nanoparticles can provide a protective carrier that helps maintain the activity of viral particles.

Targeted delivery: Targeted delivery to specific cells can be achieved through surface modification to improve the therapeutic effect.

  • Nucleic Acids

Targeted delivery: Nanoparticles can accurately deliver nucleic acids to target cells for gene therapy or other nucleic acid interventions.

Protective delivery: Helps protect nucleic acids from external degradation.

  • Vaccine

Targeted delivery: Nanoparticles can achieve targeted delivery to immune cells and improve the immune effect of vaccines.

Increase immunogenicity: It can enhance the immunogenicity of the vaccine and stimulate a stronger immune response.

  • Cosmetics and Health Products

Targeted delivery: Nanoparticles can be used to achieve targeted delivery to the skin or specific cells to improve product effects.

Improve texture: It can improve the texture and stability of the product.

  • Flavors and Fragrances

Controlled release: Nanoparticles can regulate the release rate of dyes, flavors and fragrances for long-lasting results.

Improved Stability: Helps improve the stability of these ingredients in the product.

  • Fluorescent Dyes

Extended residence time: Nanoparticles can extend the residence time of fluorescent dyes in the body and slow down their clearance, thereby increasing the time window for biological imaging.

Versatility: Nanoparticle delivery systems can also carry multiple fluorescent dyes at the same time to achieve multi-color imaging and provide more comprehensive biological information.

Enhanced fluorescence performance: Nanoparticles can optimize the quality of biological imaging by changing the microenvironment of fluorescent dyes, increasing their fluorescence intensity or adjusting their emission wavelength.


  1. Verdini F, et al.; Lignin as a Natural Carrier for the Efficient Delivery of Bioactive Compounds: From Waste to Health. Molecules. 2022, 27(11):3598.
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